PDA

View Full Version : Unpopular Phaerimm?



NRSASD
2021-07-28, 04:27 PM
Iím a bit surprised that Phaerimm arenít very present in any of the 5th edition D&D books, or in any of the other D&D media Iíve consumed over the years. Looking at them, they seem to be excellent antagonists who could eat mind flayers or drow for dinner, yet Iíve yet to see them outside of the forgotten realms wiki or obscure source books. I was curious if anyone had any thoughts as to why the Phaerimm arenít more mainstream?

As always, thanks for any and all help!

NorthernPhoenix
2021-07-28, 04:49 PM
Despite being moderately important in the deep backstory of the Forgotten Realms, i think the Phaerimm fall into the worst possible category for these kinds of characters, not popular enough to be a mainstay, but also not weird or buried enough to be a dark horse or deep cut style "surprise" inclusion. Rather than being actively unpopular in the sense of being hated or being infamous rare appears, i think they're more in the same category in the DnD consciousness as, like, the Briarvex from Monster Manual 4 (3.5). They don't appear in any 4e books either.

Exactly why this is is always hard to guess. Phaerimm are weird fantasy creatures, but DnD has a near limitless well of weird and weirder creatures, many of which are very popular as legitimate mainstays, or as cult hits like the flumph.

Wizard_Lizard
2021-07-28, 05:30 PM
Well I'd probably say that it's because they're a bit early for most 5e campaigns, and thus don't feature heavily I guess? They're tied heavily to the netherese and thus have a reference to them in RoTFM.
They are also relatively high tier foes, and most prewritten campaigns simply don't reach that level until the very end, or even at all.

Anonymouswizard
2021-07-28, 05:32 PM
I've been keeping tabs on D&D since late third edition, and I've never heard of them. They just never got big enough to have the star power of drow, orcs, demons, or dragons.

As a side note.


they seem to be excellent antagonists who could eat mind flayers or drow for dinner,

I don't see how their relative power level has anything to do with it, and honestly an antagonist that's too powerful is boring. Especially with 5e focusing on around the first ten levels of play, anybody too powerful just isn't going to see much use as a villain (as a group Mind Flayers are already on the edge of 'acceptable villain factions').

If you want weird creatures D&D has plenty, but the developers are pretty much not going to focus on them because they're trying to push D&D as generic fantasy. Anything that's primarily linked to one setting is also unlikely to get a lot of focus unless they're major enoughto appear in a book on the world (instead of just the region they appear in), and it doesn't sound like Phaerimm meet that distinction.

Plus from what I can gather most of their villain roles can be performed by the more well known Aboleth.

Glorthindel
2021-07-29, 04:09 AM
From a background point of view, I think the problem is they are sunk too many layers deep into a specific section of lore, well beyond the point that people care about. Unless you are deep diving into Anauroch/Nethril lore, a campaign just isn't going to scrape deep enough - there are more 'near the surface' bads for any adventure that breifly delves into that stuff, and there are much more interesting bits about Netheril that you'll want to focus any campaign on, you just don't need them.

As a personal aside, the picture in Monsters of Faerun was just pretty poor, and probably didn't help inspire GM's towards using them.

PattThe
2021-07-29, 04:55 AM
Phaerimm are a mouthful. First of all, it is claimed that the Imiskari created them when they were at war with the Sarrukh well over ten thousand years prior to the rise of Imiskar. Second, they are tied in with the Sharn who are equally as mysterious. Third, it is claimed by the creator of the realms himself that they were original creations in 1971 and were pre-dating D&D in a sense. Answers regarding the Phaerimm are the most mysterious of answers one could seek.

Also, 5e's start is wonky. If you're in the time past 1491, then the Phaerimm are at large and performing an undocumented reclamation of Returned Netheril's land and over like, under two years they swallowed life from Anauroch and returned it to a desert. In the past they have been kept at bay by various magical barriers, but realistically there is no reason they should be stopping at the edges of the desert- save for intervention by the Sharn.

Also, the narrow sea was "redirected" to flood their old civilization. So, blame the Sarrukh for them being underground in the first place.
I just got off a mind boggling research binge and find it amusing that this thread happened to be active when I checked this forum after being knee deep in Candlekeep's for literally over 6 hours just now.

Cicciograna
2021-07-29, 09:03 AM
This is just my perspective, but I never really understood the point of Phaerimms. They are just one of the many super-evil aberrations with weird powers and an evil agenda (but more on this later). We have plenty of them, with way more character and personality than Phaerimms, we have beholders, aboleths, illithids and whatnot, all of which are more fleshed out and characterized than glorified windsocks with teeth and magical abilities (yeah, their design REALLY doesn't help).

Plus, it's not really clear what exactly is the Phaerimms agenda. They are tied to another quite mysterious race - the Sharns, which in and by itself is puzzling and non-inspired, to say the least - and their history is closely related to Netheril, which only recently saw a revival in interest. All I read about them tells me that they were some kind of closed chapter of Faerun's history, and frankly they never piqued my interest too much.

icefractal
2021-07-29, 01:50 PM
The Sharn I do remember, largely due to the unique (AFAIK) ability it had which prevented anyone from polymorphing into one.

Grod_The_Giant
2021-07-29, 04:39 PM
They are just one of the many super-evil aberrations with weird powers and an evil agenda (but more on this later).
Mostly this, I suspect. D&D in general and the Forgotten Realms in particular have a nigh-infinite supply of ancient empires driven back into the earth, waiting to reclaim their former glory, and nothing really stands out about the Phaerimm. Nothing about their culture ("evil, scheming, slavers") or powers ("they're all super powerful spellcasters") makes you sit up and take notice, and as for their design... well...

Good monsters, like mind flayers and aboleths, resonate with primal fears. Phaerimm look like angry ice-cream cones.

RandomPeasant
2021-07-29, 05:21 PM
We have plenty of them, with way more character and personality than Phaerimms, we have beholders, aboleths, illithids and whatnot, all of which are more fleshed out and characterized than glorified windsocks with teeth and magical abilities (yeah, their design REALLY doesn't help).

I'm not sure how much stock to put in that particular argument. All it takes is one good writeup for a monster to go from "boring stock monster" to "cool iconic critter". Aboleths aren't inherently compelling on a design level, they're compelling because "has the memories of everyone it eats" is a fun and evocative shtick. 5e put the Aarakocra front (literally) and center in the MM1, they're not above recycling a Forgotten Realms creature with dumb lore. The deep answer, I think, is that there is no deep answer. Some stuff catches the imagination and some stuff doesn't.


The Sharn I do remember, largely due to the unique (AFAIK) ability it had which prevented anyone from polymorphing into one.

Also for various stupid CharOp **** you could do with them.

Anonymouswizard
2021-07-29, 05:46 PM
What fun and evocative thing do the Phaerimm have? From what I read I counted nothing.

Until they get that thing they're redundant, and people will just use some other cool spellcaster or manifested monster unless they have a personal attachment to the Phaerimm. Or a beholder if I desperately want the 'loners' bit. But I can't think of a plot that you can do with a Phaerimm but not an Aboleth without diving into FR lore from before when the PCs are likely to be born, and aren't they all dead anyway.

Tvtyrant
2021-07-29, 06:20 PM
Iím a bit surprised that Phaerimm arenít very present in any of the 5th edition D&D books, or in any of the other D&D media Iíve consumed over the years. Looking at them, they seem to be excellent antagonists who could eat mind flayers or drow for dinner, yet Iíve yet to see them outside of the forgotten realms wiki or obscure source books. I was curious if anyone had any thoughts as to why the Phaerimm arenít more mainstream?

As always, thanks for any and all help!

They look dumb, they aren't evocative, and they are extremely flat socially ( what does their civilization do?)

Compare to popular aberrations:

Beholders. Weird looking, evocatively represent paranoia and narcissism.

Aboleths. Evocative of the endless nature of time, the knowledge that our entire civilization is a blip in time and we too shall pass. Time eats everything.

Mindflayers. Evocative of fear of the unknowable. They are smarter then us, predatory, and aim for goals we can't grasp. Over time they got fleshed out and became less horrifying, which is why Thoon got invented. Thoon is thoon!

Neogi. Neogi are all the worst impulses of humanity. Slavery, cannibalism, greed, mistreatment of elderly and children.

Phaerimm. Evocative of sunflowers! They are essentially a representation of radiation or climate change, but they don't evoke that metaphor well. They would have worked better as a living color or small bug that feeds off of life and magic, or water and magic. A threat endemic to a magical society that is eating it.

NorthernPhoenix
2021-07-29, 06:36 PM
I remembered a few other "also rans" in the Aberration listings of DnD.
The Avolakia
https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Avolakia https://thecreaturecodex.tumblr.com/post/181233345924/avolakia
https://static.wikia.nocookie.net/forgottenrealms/images/c/c8/Avolakia.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20110727001013

And the Tsochar
https://eberron.fandom.com/wiki/Tsochar https://thecreaturecodex.tumblr.com/post/167216352636/tsochar
https://static.wikia.nocookie.net/eberron/images/3/38/88153.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20190228212332

Imo the Phaerimm are in exactly the same category as these guys. Nothing is especially "wrong" with them, but despite having looks and gimmicks, they do not have that special "something" that creates a fan favorite or cult-hit.

Grod_The_Giant
2021-07-29, 06:54 PM
Aboleths aren't inherently compelling on a design level, they're compelling because "has the memories of everyone it eats" is a fun and evocative shtick.
Aboleths at least have the "weird creepy deep sea monster" thing going for them.

RandomPeasant
2021-07-29, 09:03 PM
I remember thinking the Tsochar were super cool the first time I read Lords of Madness and then never doing anything with them ever. I didn't even get to the stage of stating out my idea for a Tsochar bad guy.


Aboleths at least have the "weird creepy deep sea monster" thing going for them.

Sure, but I think there are creepy things you could do with the Phaerimm too. Imagine if their art direction was less "lovechild of a sunflower and a windsock" and more "giant lamprey". That'd be evocative and creepy, and it's not terribly far removed from where they are now. It's probably not going to happen, but you could make them cool (just as you could make Aboleths dumb if you based them on a blobfish or something).

PattThe
2021-07-29, 09:51 PM
The Phaerimm were original core creations in the forgotten realms before any D&D games were even close to being played in the setting. That's what I was trying to say. They don't have origins as beings meant to me played against in a tabletop game. Critiquing them is like critiquing any original piece of monster fiction.
Sure, in the context of 5e they are absolutely ignored. And I don't see why they shouldn't be? If you think they are useless, then don't complain about them not getting turned into something interesting for 5e. The Sharnwall being destroyed was one of the many woven items in transitionary lore that helped return the map to what it looked like before the spellplague. The Phaerimm returned in a way surely entertaining for novel readers (cool clash between netherese mages with weave and shadow-weave nonsense) and natively they serve their purpose of always showing up to put the Netherese mages in the dirt. Their life-draining spell is a unique creation on Toril that permitted them to create the desert of Anauroch in the first place- a feat even more disastrous than most recent elven high magic rituals and mistakes (see the size of the High Moor from the Killing Storms versus the size of Anauroch). The life-draining desertification could have taken over the entire planet- had the Sharn not put their life-essences into the Sharnwall or however that worked.
They are fictional entities and their value is originally in their narrative utility. The Phaerimm were driven down into the underdark by the Sarrukh, where they rested defeated. Then the Netherese eventually use the Nether Scrolls (which were organized by the legacy of the Sarrukh) to become so violently magical that it excites and awakens the Phaerimm who develop magic to devour the land, entering into war with the Netherese that drained the very land which the High Netherese sought to free themselves from. Unfortunately, all the flying cities in the world won't help you when the food comes from your slaves, and your slaves are dying to the desert. Imagine if North America had no deserts, and we settled all of the US states with equal population distribution- only for the first nuclear tests to awaken spirits from beneath the world to create the deserts we see in the USA today in a matter of decades.
There is no lore that I am aware of for why the re-desertification (which seemingly happened in under two years- a disgustingly powerful feat that no 5e writer I'm aware of has even begun to discuss since there is little adventuring taking place in the desert today) has stopped at original sizes. Unless I have missed a restoration of the Sharnwall or misinterpreted the "last netherese fighting back the Phaerimm" then realistically the new Anauroch desert could be expanding right now.

Sure, various editions of D&D had Phaerimm to fight and their draining magics were designed to be engaging for fights. But that's because adventures were taking place in and under Anauroch. Once 4th edition hit, any adventures in that area were now romps through a beautiful verdant landscape magically restored by the return of the Shade Enclave. Fifth edition has stories taking place in the 1480's, but officially starts in 1491 where nobody has to think about any of this. If a DM wants to rule that the Phaerimm life-draining desertification is a true threat, then have the desert expand into the Delimbyr Vale and give the Netherese reason to push aggressively west into Waterdeep's territory. Have it move east to the Moonsea and south to Cormyr.

Use their stories as a threat. A force of un-nature. No duh, anything with stats is "just a weird monster" if you look at it a certain way. Do research, find out what made them interesting to the writers of their stories.

Yora
2021-07-30, 04:27 AM
I think phaerimm in particular bring nothing new to the game that aboleths don't already. You had two separate evolution of this general concept and the aboleths came out on top, making the phaerim redundant.

There is a similar redundancy with tsorcharr and intellect devourers. Except that with tsorcharr there was never any attempt to add them to the wider D&D ecology. Avolakia at least appeared in a couple adventures, but tsorcharr were never used for anything in my knowledge. Not even Eberron, where they would fit right in with the Daelkyrs' spawn.

Thanks for reminding me. I wanted to do something with them for a very long time, and I already got an idea to give them a prominent role in the campaign I am constructing.

Imbalance
2021-07-30, 07:16 AM
They're just not a "hit" among the vast selection of other monsters, and relegated to only being noticed by people who notice how little attention they've been paid. They're proprietary, not really based on anything, underutilized, and made to be forgotten. A lot of monsters were borne of interesting original concepts, creative homages to myths and legends, or whimsical appropriations of dime store playthings. The phaerimm and sharn seem more like the products of a bad peyote bender, and I find them compelling.

Glorthindel
2021-07-30, 08:59 AM
I think the problem is they were "introduced" (by this I mean I read plenty of Realms stuff during second ed, and openly admit to never catching a single reference to them until they appeared in 3rd ed's Monsters of Faerun) too late, and provided an answer to a question no-one was asking. I get that they were written in to the lore right at the beginning, but I think for most people, the "what caused Anauroch" question is answered to their satisfaction by "ancient mage empire, blew up catastrophically, fallout", and unless your campaign is really digging deep into Netherils history, it doesn't need to go further than that.

Add to the fact that they got a bit of spotlight as part of "resetting the spellplague" which means they, as a race, have been tarnished by possibly the single most despised bit of Realms lore, that many, many of us have chosen to ignore completely.


The phaerimm and sharn seem more like the products of a bad peyote bender, and I find them compelling.

I blame the Monsters of Faerun artists - I for one, took one look at the pictures for the two races in there and immediately went "well, I wont be using those". Oddly, when trying to find those pictures as I was writing this response, I've seen some much more intresting takes on them (Sharn that don't look like they are hopping along on one leg, and more inflated-looking Phaerimm that have more of a Final Fantasy Malboro-esque look, which probably should have been the way to go)

Kvess
2021-07-31, 10:32 AM
Looking at them, they seem to be excellent antagonists who could eat mind flayers or drow for dinner, yet Iíve yet to see them outside of the forgotten realms wiki or obscure source books.
There isn't really a transitive property to being an excellent antagonist. Just because something is able to control mindflayers doesn't necessarily make them interesting villains like mindflayers.

Introducing more powerful antagonists to a setting can also come off like...



:nale:: Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?

:elan:: Yes.

:nale:: Morons.

Great. You gave a statblock a higher number than that other statblock.

Time Troll
2021-07-31, 11:10 PM
The are Boring. Super Boring.

Lazy "non human" monsters that do magic. Wow. Over done already.

Rynjin
2021-07-31, 11:49 PM
The fact that I've never head of them is kind of damning. That tells me there's nothing interesting enough about them to have entered the public consciousness, or for people to create knockoff versions of.

It's flat our illegal for people to use Mindflayers and Beholders in their fantasy properties and yet they still DO because they're cool enough to risk filing the serial numbers off.